Music of the South

Over the last several months we have noticed developing themes.  Beginning in New Orleans through Memphis and on through Nashville we have been drawn to the music.  Much of it interconnects these cities.  You wonder if any of the music in one place could have happened if not for all the other places.  The other strong connection, and an observed theme is Liquor.....but I'll save that for another post.

Once in Memphis we headed to Graceland.  We felt that it was more about the man than the music.  To understand the music, you need see where it all happened.  Downtown Memphis.  While some of these places are still working recording studios, most offer a museum showcasing the history and the impact that their artists had on the world.  The written tour guides suggests allowing an hour or two per visit.  Somehow that didn't work for us as we found ourselves staying much longer.

Sun Records

Our first stop was Sun Records "Where Rock and Roll was Born"..  The studio was where Sam Phillips was the first to record the likes of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash.  It is where Elvis recorded "That's Alright Mama".  Where the million dollar quartet, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, met one afternoon.  Where you can sit at the drum set U2 used when they recorded "When Love Comes to Town" with BB King.

In this museum you tour the original recording studio where these guys worked.  You can also see the broadcast booth where Dewey Phillips would make rock stars by getting them AirPlay on WHBQ in Memphis.

The Million Dollar Quartet

The Mic Elvis Used

STAX Records

Started on a shoestring by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton, it is where Southern or Memphis
Soul began.  While the label featured mostly black artists, the founders where white.   Founded in 1957, the label successfully integrated not only their acts, like Booker T & the MG's, but also their staff.  It was a remarkable achievement in the South.  Key artists for STAX were, among many others, Otis Redding and Issac Hayes.

Soul Man

Records on the Wall

STAX Sound Board

STAX Studio

Issac Hayes Golden Ride

Memphis Rock and Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock and Soul Museum,  just off of Beale Street, tied much of this all together for me.  So many of these early Rock, Soul, and Blues artists where influenced by Gospel and Country music.  Time and again you would read how a young artist would spend their Saturday nights huddled around the radio listening to the Grand Ole Opry.  All of this music we hear, even today, was influenced by the roots music they listened to on their front porches, and the gospel the choirs sung on Sunday.  It becomes clear that none of it could have happened without the other.

Gospel. From the pulpit to the stage.

Beale Street

Album Cover Art


Yes.  Lucille!

Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry

In Nashville, we parked AIROSMITH virtually right next door to the Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry.  We couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit, though we don't see ourselves as Country Music fans.  I doubt that I could name a current country music star.....Slim Pickens....Little Jimmy Dickens....Jimmy Dean?  See!
The Grand Ole Opry

Though it presents the opportunity to recount a favorite music joke.

Two men are taken hostage by a notorious group of desperadoes.  One hostage a country fan.  The other a Blues fan. Uncharacteristically, the  group allowed their captives one final wish.  The country fan said, "Just play me a little of Garth Brooks, and then shoot me through the head".  The Blues fan said, "Shoot me first".

But I digress.  Believing as I do, that all this great music influences each other, and being in town, we got tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.  I confess that the only artist I really knew was Rickey Skaggs, and he plays Bluegrass.  We had a wonderful evening while listening to some very fine music.

The Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry between 1943 and 1974.  A lot of music history has been made on its stage.  Take the backstage tour.  It gets you into some of the dressing rooms used over the years.  Then spend some time in the museum that traces the history of the building from a turn of the century mega church to the long time home of country music.  A circle from the origional stage of the Ryman was put center stage of the new Grand Ole Opry when they moved in 1974.  History lives on.

The Ryman

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

A final museum we visited in Nashville was the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.  I know, you will ask why we didn’t venture into the County Music Hall of Fame.  I will refer you above to my favorite joke….also, from credible reports one can spend many days in that museum.  With our track record, I feared that we might never come out.

The MHFM is very comprehensive covering rock, soul, blues, funk, country and venues from Muscle Shoals to LA.  A stroll through here provided a number of pleasant surprises.

Nipper The RCA Dog

Caribou Ranch Steinway  

Caribou Ranch Baby Grand Piano

You can not leave Nashville without taking a stroll down Broadway and Honky Tonk Row to sample both the food and the music.  Or to ride along Music Row, a former residential neighborhood where house after house houses some of the finest music agents, producers and recording studios in the world.

Lunch at the Acme

Hot Chicken Sandwich

No Steff......

......this one belongs to Jack!

I am left with the feeling that music could very well be the common language we can all speak, and could bring us together.  Rock On! 


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